William Carey is often called the “father of modern missions” because of his zeal to evangelize the world and his dedication to reaching the people of India with the gospel. He became a missionary at a time when very few were going to the field, and he had a long and dedicated ministry despite many hardships.
While Carey is very well known, those who helped train and send him are often not as well known – men like Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliffe. Andrew Fuller pastored a church in Soham, Cambridge from 1775 to 1782, and Kettering, Northamptonshire from 1782 to 1915. Fuller led the way in setting up a Baptist Missionary Society that helped raise funds for William and other overseas missionaries.
John Sutcliffe pastored Olney Baptist Church for thirty-nine years, from 1775 until 1814. During his time in Olney, he set up a seminary to train preachers in a couple of houses close to the church. Two of those trained there, were William Robinson, a missionary to Serampore, and William Carey, missionary to India. John Sutcliffe helped ordain Carey to the gospel ministry, and Olney Baptist was the church that commissioned Carey to the work in India.
The influence and investment of John Sutcliffe and others in the life of Carey are a great example and inspiration to local churches, pastors, and Bible college teachers. The work that goes on behind the scenes to train and support others is not in vain and is a vital part of getting the gospel around the world. If you are in the role, keep on investing, giving, mentoring, and training. It will be worth it in the end!
Bonus: Below is a short video I recorded recently while on a visit to Olney. I apologize for the background noise, but I hope this video encourages you as much as visiting the church encouraged me.
Note: Special thanks to Olney Baptist Church for their helpful history section. (source)
A.T. Pierson, in his book, The Divine Enterprise of Missions, shares the following 12 principles and explanation about a covenant that missionaries Carey, Marshman, and Ward drew up to guide their work in India in a spiritual fashion. The idea of the covenant was to encourage holy living so as to see the Lord bless and prosper their work. It is a challenge to us to seek to live holy lives through God’s Spirit so that we too may experience God’s blessing on our work of world evangelism.
And therefore do we steadfastly maintain that no great power can attend Christian missions, while in the Church Christian life sinks to a low level. Such a life can beget no life of a higher sort, and our missionaries will, in their work, represent our uncertain convictions and our divided affections, and their unbelief and worldliness will make God’s many mighty works impossible on the foreign field.
It was October 7, 1805, thirteen years almost to a day from the day when that mission compact was signed at Kettering, that Carey, Marshman, and Ward, at Serampore, drew up their famous spiritual “Covenant.” It covered twelve printed pages octavo, and was read publicly at every station at least once a year.
If any one would see what sort of men God chose to lead the van of His modern missionary post, let him study that “Form of agreement respecting the great principles upon which the brethren of the mission thought it their duty to act in the work of instructing the heathen.” Dr. George Smith calls it a Preparatio Evangelica, and well adds that it “embodies the divine principles of all Protestant scriptural missions, and is still a manual to be daily pondered by every missionary, and every church and society which may send a missionary forth.”*
We give here its most important parts, for personal reflection:
“IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: 1. “That we set an infinite value upon immortal souls. 2. “That we gain all information of the snares and delusions in which these heathen are held. 3. “That we abstain from all those things which would increase their prejudices against the Gospel. 4. “That we watch all opportunities for doing good. 5. “That we keep to the example of Paul, and make the great subject of our preaching, Christ the Crucified. 6. “That the natives should have an entire confidence in us and feel quite at home in our company. 7. “That we build up and watch over the souls that may be gathered. 8. “That we form our native brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius and cherishing every gift and grace in them, especially advising the native churches to choose their own pastors and deacons from amongst their own countrymen. 9. “That we labor with all our might in forwarding translations of the Sacred Scriptures in the languages of India. 10. “That we establish native free-schools and recommend these establishments to other Europeans. 11. “That we be constant in prayer and the cultivation of personal religion, to fit us for the discharge of these laborious and unutterably important labors. Let us often look at Brainerd in the woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God for the perishing heathen, without whose salvation nothing could make him happy. 12. “That we give ourselves unreservedly to this glorious cause. Let us never think that our time, our gifts, our strength, our families, or even the clothes we wear, are our own. Let us sanctify them all to God and His cause. O, that He may sanctify us for His work! No private family ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness than we have done since we resolved to have all things in common. If we are enabled to persevere, we may hope that multitudes of converted souls will have reason to bless God to all eternity for sending His Gospel into this country.”
In this solemn compact, which sounds like an apostolic document, twelve cardinal principles are carefully set forth.
1. Valuing human souls at an infinite worth. 2. Informing themselves as to their actual needs. 3. Avoiding all putting of stumbling blocks in their way. 4. Watching opportunity to do good unto all. 5. Preaching Christ Crucified as their one theme. 6. Inspiring confidence by a Christlike life. 7. Establishing schools for Christian education. 8. Watching over and training native converts. 9. Raising up a native ministry for service. 10. Translating the Holy Scriptures into the vernacular. 11. Cultivating prayer and self-culture in piety. 12. Surrendering self unreservedly to God and service.
To this nothing remains to be added to give completeness and symmetry. It reads like an inspired paper. The marks of the Holy Ghost are upon it. And we commend it to all friends of missions, and especially to all who have in view or in thought the field of missions. It need be no matter of wonder that, although the first Hindu convert, Krishna Chundra Pal, was not baptized as a Protestant believer until 1800, fifty years after Carey’s death, the native Protestant community, in 1884, numbered half a million, with ordained native pastors outnumbering the missionaries, and every decade witnessing an increase at the rate of eighty-six per cent.!
Let this covenant be to the Church of Christ, as we start on a new century of missions, a trumpet peal of God for a new advance. A higher type of piety is the great demand of our day. Spiritual power depends upon spiritual life. Never will the Holy Spirit set a premium upon low spiritual attainment by resting, in Shekinah glory, upon a Church in whose courts are the idols of this world. While the Word of God is neglected, prayer degenerates into a form, and worship into ritual; while the line of separation is obliterated between the Church and the world, and the whole life of the Church is on the lowest level, we shall look in vain for the anointing from above.
I was reading a short biographical sketch of the father of modern missions, William Carey. Before leaving the Harvey Lane Baptist Church in Leicester, England, he was once at a ministers meeting in 1787 when he decided to raise the question of the responsibility of the church to reach the world with the Gospel. Now, just a little back story, Carey was a particular Baptist minister who was in a Calvinistic group of Baptists who were currently enthralled with a fight over hyper-Calvinism! Hyper-Calvinism was the belief that because of the doctrines of Calvinism, men were not to use means to reach the World because God had already predestined the Salvation of his chosen. To use means was a waste of one’s life and efforts and basically an undermining of God. After Carey rose this question, the renowned Baptist minister and writer of his day, John Ryland Sr., allegedly stood up and proclaimed to Carey, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do without your aid or mine!” (Though his son, a later coworker with Carey in the Baptist Missionary Society, claimed it never happened). Sadly today, whether consciously or subconsciously, many Christians, churches, and yes, even preachers and missionaries have started thinking about our God in this way. Either through buying into hyper-Calvinism or subconsciously thinking that God will save those that he will save, and we need not interfere in our lives. I’d like to take a moment to show you the Biblical fallacies in Ryland’s statements to encourage you to see your responsibility in reaching the world with the Gospel and to encourage you to find your place in World Evangelism, whether as goer or sender.
Young man, sit down!
This was the first part of Ryland’s statement and a command towards Carey to sit down on the thoughts of evangelizing the world. Ryland’s thinking was that Carey had no reason to be on the move for the needs of the world. The only problem was that Carey had a command already given in scripture that prohibited him from sitting down because he had been commanded by the scripture to not only get up but rather to GO!
‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. ‘ – Matthew 28:18-20 (This was actually the text of Carey’s farewell sermon to Harvey Lane Baptist Church when headed to India)
When God pleases to convert the heathen…
The second part of his statement was no better or truthful. He rose the fact that in his opinion that the heathen were unreached because God had not chosen to reach them. Though this may be a good, logical, hyper-Calvinistic statement, it isn’t in line with scripture. The Bible tells us that God desires that all would come to repentance; therefore, if he desires for all to come, it pleases God for all to come.
‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. ‘ – 2 Peter 3:9
He will do without your aid or mine!
So this one seems very logical and even seems like it is lifting up God, but really it is attacking the way God operates. Though God could very well reach the world without using people, he chooses not to because He gets more glory using broken vessels to achieve his purpose rather than doing it all himself. Also, this is part of his love toward us that He would get us in on His master plan to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ!
‘For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. ‘ – 1 Corinthians 1:21-29
We see through these three simple sets of verses that Ryland’s statements were completely wrong and not from scripture! The sad thing is that many today still believe similar lies and sit idle, thinking their life is not desired by God to be used for the sake of evangelizing the world! Today, do you see that God wants to use you? Though he could do it all Himself, He wants to use you! Are you willing to be used, either as a goer (going to the mission field) or a sender, (facilitating missionaries to go to the field) for the cause of the Gospel of Christ?
Today in Baptist History class at the Our Generation Training Center, I was reminded about a missionary hero of mine, William Carey. What the man accomplished was nothing short of incredible. John Ryland, the minister that baptized William, wrote in his journal that day, “baptized today poor journeyman shoe cobbler.” But the man that Carey grew to be was greater than just a poor shoe cobbler, he turned into the “Father of the Modern Missions Movement.” He wrote a booklet that would shake two continents from a stupor into missionary-producing machines. He would translate the Scriptures in India. God would use Carey to make the first Missionary Society. A giant would emerge from the slight-of-stature unwanted preacher from England. But like all men, he would have his flaws. And the major stumbling block in the life of William Carey was the relationship that he had with his wife, Dorthy. Today, I would like to write to men and women both on The Carey’s Complication.
To the Men:
As I went through this small glimpse of the life of William Carey, I couldn’t help but see that Carey was a man of persistence. He seemed like a hard-headed man, which in my opinion is a necessary trait for the mission field. After Carey was saved and baptized, the author of the book said that he became convinced that he should preach. But sadly, the people who listened to him didn’t hold the same outlook. He preached an entire summer and the church refused to recommend him for ordination. But that refusal didn’t stop William Carey because he was ordained, even though it was stated that the church reluctantly voted to recommend him for ordination.
Later on in Carey’s life, while attending Ministers Fraternal of the Northampton Association, Cary was told to “sit down” because of his passion to get the gospel to the unconverted heathen. That rebuke didn’t stop Carey; he wrote a booklet known as “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathen (Leicester, 1792).”
Then, in May that year, Carey preached his famous message of Expect Great Things from God, and Attempt Great Things for God at an association meeting. The meeting would close without any action. However, that apathy did not stop William Carey because later on that year, in October, Carey and thirteen others would vote to form what is now known as the Baptist Missionary Society.
William Carey in his life demonstrated what not only what persistence looked like but also what it took to win people over. Now, here is the point. William Carey could win over congregation members and pastors to catch his vision. Whether it was about William Carey is a preacher or that Baptists needed to spread the gospel throughout the world, Carey won them over. However, in earning this great acceptance, he failed to win his wife.
I am reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” Men, if you can’t lead your wife and help her catch the vision and desire that God has placed in your heart, you have failed.
Mr. Carey is a personal hero of mine, but a glaring fault of his is that he didn’t know how to lead his wife, which led to major complications. I wonder if his wife would have been a more willing participant in his ministry, if he would have spent some of that time writing her. I wonder if she would have following him more readily had he demonstrated the same the zeal and passion with his wife as he did with others. I know that this thought is all speculation, but men, make the effort to lead your wife correctly.
To the Women:
Whenever I hear the name Dorothy Carey, somehow I equate her to being that crazy lady on the mission field. I think the lesson to be learned with Dorothy from a woman’s standpoint is this: You cannot control your circumstances. Bad things are going to happen to you, but you determine how you’re going to respond to things that are out of your control.
Dorothy Carey seemingly had no control of whether or not her husband was going to go to the mission field. He already made that decision. History books give an account that, after she was on the ship, she immediately regretted her decision to follow her husband. While she was in India, she suffered diseases, sickness, and even the death of a child. They were the first “missionaries“ of their era. They never had an orientation to prepare them for the field. They had no one‘s notes to compare. She had no warning and no preparation for the difficulties that she was to face. Things were out of her control.
I believe the lesson to be learned is this you must have a strong walk with God if you are going to be on the foreign field. Missionaries face obstacles and difficulties that normal believers do not face and must have a strong walk with the Lord as a result. You must learn to rely on Him and trust Him as you face uncertain difficulties. I believe wholeheartedly that, if Dorothy Carey would have had a strong walk with the Lord, she could have faced these difficulties and lived like an overcomer.
Ladies, you must rely on God; you have to strengthen your walk with the Lord. We live in a fallen world, and people, including your husband, will let you down. You must have a constant in your life that you can trust in. If you are a believer, you have that constant. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Learn to trust in the One who will never leave you or forsake you.
In conclusion, I think it would be wise for us to learn from this complicated situation. Men, you must learn to lead your wives. Wives, you must learn to have a strong relationship with God. I hate that the Careys lived with these complications. There were wrongs on both sides. I think history seems to paint Mr. Carey more pleasantly; that is my own personal opinion. But I hope that married couples looking to serve on the field learn from the past mistakes others have made and grow from what they learn. Don’t copy the Carey’s complications.